I grew up with three major influences: my parents, the church, and television. The first two were institutions that were expressly devoted to developing a sense of morality within young people. Television, with its sitcom families and cartoon violence, unwittingly became the third source of morality for me.
Other than Mr. Rogers and the rest of the PBS gang, there was little sense that anyone was trying to use television as a tool for discerning right from wrong. More poignantly, there was no sense of how realistic the depictions of masculinity in professional wrestling or of romantic relationships in Dawson’s Creek were supposed to be.
It wasn’t until I got to high school where a fourth institution, my school, taught me the art and science of critical thinking. This was done under the presumption that I would use it to understand literature, but once I learned about how depictions of women in novels were shaped by the choices that an author made rather than happenstance, the skill quickly expanded to every form of media I was exposed to.
I watched Friends for years, a show set in the city I lived in, and it never dawned on me to question why there weren’t any black or brown faces anywhere. Thinking critically about media was the key to understanding the lessons of morality and inclusion that television and movies taught me over the years.
This ability has shaped my life in deep ways. I joined The LAMP’s board because The LAMP is the only organization I know of that helps youth of color understand, question, and challenge the role media plays in their lives. Youth are exposed to more types of media than ever, yet before The LAMP came along, I hadn’t seen any concerted effort to help them acquire these critical skills.
This holiday season, we’re helping youth stand up to big media by matching your LAMP donation dollar for dollar.
Over 85% of LAMP students are youth of color. This is important to me because…
- While youth of color are generally underrepresented in media, they are overrepresented in crime and violence-related portrayals.
- Youth now spend an average of 9 hours a day consuming entertainment media (more time than they spend sleeping!)–and the numbers are even higher for black and latino youth than for their white counterparts.
- The food and beverage industries disproportionately target kids of color in marketing products that are high in fat, sugar, and sodium–and these groups are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other health problems associated with consuming such foods.
What I find so inspiring about our programs is that they don’t just allow youth to understand how and why they’re misrepresented by media, they actually give youth the tools to challenge those representations.
Omar Lopez on behalf of The LAMP Executive Board